A Travellerspoint blog

Alice Springs

As we didn’t find so much info about the walks in the East and West McDonnell ranges, we headed to the information center first. The guy was very helpful and we got a lot of brochures, but still they didn’t reveal all the walks and their distances. Anyway, we decided to head to the West McDonnell ranges first. But first we were going to stay one night in Alice. We found a cheap campsite at the back yard of a hotel (it was very packed and looked a bit like a refugee camp, but had laundry, tables, electricity and water). Good enough for a night.

The winter nights here in the center of Australia are surprisingly cold. The temperature starts to drop as soon as the sun goes down and can go down to minus degrees… So when it gets dark, we put all our winter stuff on, which is thermal underwear, big socks, jackets, etc. We sleep with them and around 9h30 after brekkie, they can go off for short and a t-shirt, because it’s pretty nice in the day :). An interesting experience!

The next morning we did a very nice, informative and free town walk with the information center tour guide. We got to know Alice Springs a bit better and the history of the area here. We wanted to go to the McDonnell ranges as soon as possible but first had to visit the beanie festival that they had going on here at that time. We got stopped by an aboriginal woman asking for ambulance, because she can’t walk. She didn’t look like she is in a desperate need for one, but you never know so we organised an ambulance for her (Edda did her duty as a good citizen!). While we were waiting, she asked for a lighter for her cigarette… When the ambulance came, they greeted her as a regular and we could go. That episode stole some time away from us, but as the information center guy said: many aboriginals come to towns just to get medical help and drink, so you don’t get the best impression about the indigenous culture if you only visit towns.

Finally we made it to the beanie festival which was great. I was thinking, we should definitely do something like this in Finland! So many weird and also normal beanies (or hats), so many visitors, so many people buying them etc. How can this be so successful in Australia where you don’t even need a hat..? See the pics, and get to work, Magaly ;).

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Posted by cjfvdk 23:56 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Three ways - Tennant Creek and the rest of Stuart Highway

After a while we reached the boarder of Queensland and Northern Territory, and in the end we reached Stuart Highway just to find camping for the night. We stayed the night at a free camp where we met some old people and sat around a fire with them. In a way it’s interesting to talk to them, but very often you find out that they are quite racist especially against the Asian people and do not like young travellers (especially the French, but that’s their own fault partly) very much. Hopefully we made a good impression and showed them that they don’t have to judge people based on their age and car (mostly vans) before first talking to them. Not all backpackers throw their rubbish around, make noise and listen to loud music…

Australians complain a lot that they are selling out their country (they opened the market for the Chinese, and Chinese companies own quite a bit of land and mines in Australia), but they want to earn a lot of money, travel a lot and not work too much, retire early and travel around. Everybody thinks that Australians have a great life, can take it easy, etc. And they do, but their way of life is not going to last for ever, I think (Christophe).

The next morning we drove on to Tennant Creek and were not that impressed with the town. We found a nice place to have breakfast, but other than that the town didn’t seem to have so much to offer. We visited the info center, but we pretty much had the info they could offer (end they were really not friendly) they only wanted us to come on an expensive mining tour - no thank you.

From now on it’s really careful planning with the fuel. Many small towns and roadhouses have really expensive fuel and they are so far apart, so we have to check the gas stations on the way can count the distances. We kept driving South towards Alice Springs and wrote down the gas prices of every town and roadhouse to know where to stop when we come back.
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Posted by cjfvdk 23:51 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Mt. Isa

So now we are at Mt. Isa, where there is a town just in front of the Lead, Copper, Zinc and Silver mine which is still active. And the mine is literally in the middle of the town (looks pretty unhealthy to me... however we met some old men that used to work at the mine and they are still alive, so I guess it's not such a poisonous environment)

We visited the Underground hospital, built in 1942 when they were afraid of the Japanese bombing the mine. Tomorrow we want to visit the School of the air, so more about that another time!

The school of the air was quite interesting. They gave online classes to the students (by phone, because many of the remote places don’t have internet). These kids who live in these stations and other remote places are really independent. They have to manage their own studies, work and help a lot around. We were quite impressed. Also in Australia it’s really easy if you want to take your kids away from the normal school for a year or some months. They have really good remote learning programs and materials. Many kids who were on the school of the air tour with us were travelling with their parents and the parents did the teaching.

After doing some shopping in Mt Isa, we headed West towards Stuart Highway and Northern Territory. We camped on the way next to the road, and drove the next day in the small town of Camooweal, where we had a tour in the drovers camp by an old drover. A 2h talk about mustering, droving, bushily, etc. Interesting, with a lot of the old things in the place!

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Posted by cjfvdk 23:12 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Cloncurry

Wake up, breakfast and ready to go for 300 kms to the next town! Took us about 3 hours and not much excitement, except a road train. Here in many parts of the road, there is only one lane, so if you meet another car, both of you get half off the bitumen. When you meet a truck or a road train, you get totally off the road and let the beast pass you. Here we met our first road train, got off the bitumen, waited and continued :) Well done Christophe!

The landscape is interesting, very dry but still quite some trees, termite mounds and all that. It’s not boring to drive through though. On the way we saw one huge lizard of 1,5 m length crossing the road, that was spectacular! Cloncurry, our destination was another rather small town, so we didn’t do much and went on the road again to our next bush camp towards Mt. Isa.

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Posted by cjfvdk 23:11 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Croydon - Normanton

We arrived early in Croydon and had breakfast at the dam. Then we went into town and saw a movie about the history of the town and visited some of the historic buildings. We then went for Normanton, which we thought would be a bigger town, but not. Very small, not much to see. It was a supplytown for the goldmines and cattle stations more south. Not much to do here, except a pic with the big crocodile! Well, there was also a train museum (which was unfortunately closed) and a still functioning train line (goes once a week for tourists) between Normanton and Croydon.

We didn’t go to Karumba, a fishing town at the Gulf of Carpentaria, as it was 150 kms return and that’s a bit too much for nothing. In stead we drove south and ended up halfway towards Burke and Wills.

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Posted by cjfvdk 23:08 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Undara Lavatubes - Georgetown

The next day we drove to the Undara NP, where a volcano erupted with the lava oozing through riverbeds and as the edges of the lava cooled down, it created tubes through which the hot molten lava still flowed. These then left hollow tubes as the lava stopped flowing. They must be very amazing, but were too pricy for us to visit (60$ each). We had breakfast at one of the volcano craters, and walked around one.

We then went past Mt Surprise into Georgetown (built after a gold rush) where a camp draft was going on. This was a real cowboy town: every body wearing boots, jeans, cowboy hat, shirt. Quite remarkable. The camp draft was about chasing a calf (while sitting on a horse) in an eight shape around two poles and then through a gate. Something which seemed quite random, and not many of the ladies who were doing it managed. And it wasn’t soooo super interesting either :P. So we went to the free pool in town (and nobody else was there!) and had a lovely afternoon before driving on to another free bush camp, with a sky so full of stars and shooting stars, one of the most beautiful night skies we have ever seen! Now the distances between towns are getting to more than 200 kms, so we have to plan our fuel and drinking water well!

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Posted by cjfvdk 23:07 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Ravenshoe - Mt Garnet - Innot Hot Springs

In Ravenshoe we arrived early morning and had breakfast in the rain. Then we went to the info centre which had an excellent display on the aborigines in the region. By noon the weather was better and we left, went on past the beautiful Millstream falls and the Innot hot springs, where hot water comes up from the sand of the creek. Had a good warm bath there :). We had lunch in Mt Garnet, chilled for a moment in the dry rainforest of FouForty Mile scrub NP, and drove a bit more to the free bush camp to spend the night.

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Posted by cjfvdk 23:05 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Atherthon Tablelands - revisited

So to get to the Northern Territories (NT from now) we have to go again through the Tablelands, remember the way with all the waterfalls ;). In Mareeba, that had a splendid heritage museum out at the information centre, but we didn’t allocate so much time, so didn’t spend more than an hour there. We still had to eat and do lots of things. We drove that night to a free camping before Atherthon. The next day we went through Atherthon, went shopping and had no money for all the expensive museums. So the plan was to drive on. But then we found this Chinese Temple with a lot of Chinese heritage from the Chinamen who came here for mining first and when the mine was done they stayed and did gardening. The story is pretty amazing.

Chinese people have a lot of perseverance to get where European settlers couldn’t. They dug out gold better, were better at gardening. And although the gold digging led to jealousy, racism and anti-chinese laws, Europeans were very happy that the Chinamen came round now and then with fresh veggies. Respect for the Chinamen! They also had a Chinese temple in which Christophe got a tour. It was a very good museum! We also got some oranges and mandarins from their trees, which were just excellent! Christophe thought it was the best we had so far. Then we drove again through Malanda because Christophe wanted to get another shot at seeing a tree kangaroo, but didn’t see one. Then we went to a blowhole/crater from a volcano, in really bad weather and we ate there, and slept a couple kms further on the road in a deserted gravel pit.

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Posted by cjfvdk 23:03 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Cape Tribulation

We went over the Daintree river for free thanks to an old lady living here, and then found the tourist trap of the Daintree. Safari tours and all that you can pay for. No resorts, basic stuff, but you can pay for a lot of things here. We stayed with the free stuff, although we ate a local ice cream, did the walks in the beautiful and informative rainforests and palm groves, where the rainforest goes all the way to the beach, and stayed at the national park camping. Lots of rain, bad weather, not the best night with rain hammering your roof. But we did see a cassowary in the bush on one of the walks! Edda got scared as hell :D.

Now we are in Mareeba, where we drove after crossing the Daintree again. Doing laundry and updating the blog!
Another shocking thing which we heard on the radio is that they still care more about money here than about nature. If it would be profitable they would immediately log all the would in the rainforest. Luckily most of it is world heritage Area now, and they can’t do that anymore, but they would if they could. Money, cars, and their whitefalla heritage, it’s what Queenslanders love most (we found).

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Posted by cjfvdk 19:45 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Cooktown

We wanted to first visit Daintree, but discovered that the only affordable campsite was fully booked, so we changed our plan and headed to Cooktown first. The road there was pretty long (takes 4h, 250 kms) and there is not much on the road to stop for except for couple of lookouts. We were lucky we changed our plan, because Cooktown had a festival in honour of Lieutenant Cook’s landing in Cooktown.

We arrived on saturday and we had just missed the parade, but there was some music going on, so we enjoyed that. There was a lot going on in the pub, but we didn’t go there. In stead, we went out of town to find a place to spend the night. North of Cairns, there is nowhere where you can bush camp (freecamp), and they seem to hate young travelling people. In Cooktown, you can stay in town for free, but only with a caravan. It seems like lots of backpackers screwed it up for the others, and so they hate us now. We didn’t want to spend much money too in a town where we are not welcome. So we didn’t spend any, and slept under a bridge (in the car of course!).

On sunday, we went to the city very early, had a breakfast and walked around town, went to the hilltop lookout, and waited for the banana eating competition (as many as you can in 1 minute). But seems like that was cancelled. After that there was reenactment of Cook’s landing in the endeavour river. That was really interesting! His ship got stuck on the Endeavour reef, and they were almost sinking but put a sail under the ship to cover the whole and then sailed another 40 miles to get here, and they repaired the ship. Lt. Cook spent there 48 days on aboriginal peace land, had some contact with the locals, had a bit of a quarell with them, because they were greedy and didn’t want to give them a turtle. But then they reconciled (first reconciliation in the history of Australia). It was very interesting to see the actors perform it. After it they shot the canon, and we went to the local museum to learn a bit more about the town. The town is not built because of Cook’s landing, but because it served as a port for the goldrush on the Palmer river. Lots and lots of Chinese gold diggers ended up in Cooktown, and there is even a Chinese shrine in the cemetery. After the gold rush, the town almost vanquished, but now they have discovered the potential for tourism, and are building terminals for cruise ships and all that.

People in Cooktown, and in North Queensland are not very friendly we found. They don’t like young people travelling, don’t have anything for them, and are only after your money. In the rest of Queensland they are more friendly, but still, they are very much after your money. And if something is commercial, it’s also quite expensive! Furthermore, what shocked Christophe, was that they feel that their grandfathers are the pioneers of this country, and they have great respect for the way they managed to survive and live here, and how good they have done (cfr Stockmans hall of fame in Longreach). But they don’t care a bit about aboriginals, they see the blackfellas as intruders to their land, people they are forced to take care off, while they are the natives. But they don’t seem to feel much sympathy for them, but they will be politically correct and say they do.

If you look up Lt. Cook’s description of aborigines, it’s very adequate. They had everything, they lived of the land, they didn’t overuse, they varied their diet according to what food there was. They couldn’t use anything cook gave them. Everyone had their function in society. But as settlers came here, they took everything, cleared the land for their own purpose and now the aboriginal have to evolve in 200 years from a prehistoric people (that’s what they were, they had no wheel or hook, and didn’t advance technologically at all in their 40000 years here) to the modern people we are now. No wonder they are lost.

They rest of the day we wandered around Cooktown, saw the evening show with belly dancers, children performances and fireworks and then went to sleep in the bush again. In the morning we went to get some petrol, and left for the trip back. We stayed in a free campsite at mount Malloy, ready for cape Tribulation the next day.

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Posted by cjfvdk 19:42 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Gordonvale - Cairns - Port Douglas

Next day, we drove down to Gordonvale, but there was not much there, so we continued to Cairns. Cairns was also done pretty fast (we went to the lagoon and walked a bit on the beach, not much more you can do there). Lots of relaxing to do, but that’s not what we are after. After doing some essential supermarket shopping, and new sandals, we decided to drive north from Cairns and see how close to Port Douglas we’d get. We ended up sleeping on the road (a nice hidden place in the bush near the beach). There were like 5 other camper vans there with us.

In the early morning we reached Port Douglas and had breakfast near the beach at sunrise. There were lots of sporty people already running in the beach from the early morning, preparing for next week’s triathlon. After eating we went to do the compulsory town tour and lookout walks. Port Douglas is stuffed with resorts, I wonder if there actually are any locals living there. From Port Douglas, we drove on towards Mossman.

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Posted by cjfvdk 19:40 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Waterfalls in the Atherton Tablelands

We started our day with Josephine falls after which we entered the Tablelands. It was beautifull, we had breakfast there an a swim. We were very early (7 am) so there was nobody there when we were :). Then we went towards Millaa Millaa and we stopped in every waterfall on the way (elinja falls, zillie falls, milla milla falls etc..) We stayed in a national park campsite near some falls and continued next morning.
Although it was raining we took a dip in the Milla Milla falls because Christophe had seen that you get a polar bear certificate if you take a picture of yourself swimming there and take it to the local business (cafe. bakery etc.). So we swam, but in the end forgot to show the pictures in the town, where there was not much, so no polar bear certificate.

We stopped also in the nice infocenter in Malanda, where we saw platypus in one of the waterfall pools. Unfortunately when we got the camera, the platypus was already gone. They also had lots of turtles in the stream and there should be tree kangaroos (yes, a kangaroo living in a tree!), but didn’t see it. We might go back! We had lunch in Yungaburra. After that we walked around the smaller crater lake (lake Echoe? from a Maar volcano, 65m deep) where we saw many turtles and fish. The walk itself was not that special, cause you didn’t see the lake. The whole walk was covered with trees around you.

We found a nice campsite near lake Tinaroo where we stayed 2 nights. We hired a canoe and went paddling around the lake. We saw some lizards, lots of turtles, birds and even a snake swimming in one of the many arms of the lake. In the evening we had a campfire, that fell over a couple of times, and a rat-kangaroo came to visit us a couple of times.

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Posted by cjfvdk 19:35 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Paronella Park - Innisfail

We drove past a lot of sugarcane fields and picked up some local fruit and vegetables (first time Christophe tasted Paw Paw!). We stopped in Paronella Park, which is an old castle built by a Spanish man in the 20’s. His dream was to built a castle, he came to Australia and did it, and lived across the castle so he could wake up and see it. He didn’t want to live in it. Now it has been made into a tourist attraction and the cement has cement cancer so everything is slowly falling apart.

We continued to Innisfail and looked for the infocenter, but didn’t find one. Apparently they decided to take it down and are still looking for a new building for it. We stayed the night at a free rest area and continued our journey north-west.

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Posted by cjfvdk 19:34 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Tully & Tully Gorge

Tully has a lot of rain (one of the most wet places in Australia). There is even a rubber boot statue in town, which depicts the amount of annual rainfall in the town. We decided to stay in the Tully Gorge National Park campsite 50kms away from Tully. We drove up there - the gorge itself was not that amazing. It was just a river, not really a gorge, and you couldn’t really see anything. There was a hydro electric plant at the end of the road and some commercial rafting every day when they release the waters from the dam.

We were also the only ones at the campsite, so not much happening at this place.

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Posted by cjfvdk 19:32 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Cardwell - Mission beach

It was still raining, so we wanted to find a campsite which has some kind of cover. We ended up at a very random campsite (just camped at someone’s backyard basically) just after Cardwell. At least we got to do cheap laundry (2$!) and play cards under the roof in the laundry room. There were no other campers there, just some long term residents. Edda saw 3 green frogs in the toilet. One of them was in the toilet pot.

We did a small sightseeing at Mission beach and around. It looked nice but not much there. They had some rainforests walks, and we were looking out for cassowaries, but didn’t see any. It was still drizzling a bit, but we found a nice covered spot to have lunch. We found and picked up a coconut at a nearby beach. We’ll eat it later, fingers crossed that it’s a good one :)

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Posted by cjfvdk 19:29 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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